Ex-Dodger Joc Pederson infusing Atlanta’s World Series run with ‘Joctober’ energy
It’s one of the first displays inside the Braves Clubhouse Store in Truist Park.
A headless mannequin, dressed in full uniform, with a strand of white pearls dangling around its neck.
For $5, the replica jewelry can be yours.
For $5, you can accessorize like the team’s new fan-favorite player.
In the same way he captured hearts and minds as a Dodger in Los Angeles, Joc Pederson has taken Atlanta by storm since being acquired in a mid-July trade, infusing enthusiasm into the fanbase and bringing belief back to what had been a downtrodden clubhouse.
His importance transcends numbers; he batted .249 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 64 regular-season games in Atlanta, and hit crucial home runs in the NLDS and NLCS to help the Braves reach their first World Series since 1999.
It goes deeper than the pearl necklace he wears before, during and after every game; a tradition that began in late September, and has now become a defining image for the team’s October run, the fashion statement catching on with fans ever since the club started selling replicas in their team shop.
Behind it all, there’s an almost indescribable quality that Pederson has brought, one that helped lift a team that was a game under .500 and emotionally reeling from Ronald Acuña Jr.’s season-ending injury when he arrived at the end of the All-Star break.
“He brings that little edge and that personality that you just don’t see all the time,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Also, that instant credibility. He’s been on this stage … and he just brings a certain edge.”
Tyler Matzek was out of baseball four years ago because he had trouble throwing a pitch. Now he’s a dominant reliever for Atlanta in the World Series.
First base coach Eric Young Sr. described a similar effect.
“We knew he was a winner because he came from the Dodgers and had been on World Series teams and been to the playoffs almost every year, so he knew exactly what it took,” Young said. “He was a good mix of what we needed at the time. We were a little down ... and he just came in and was like, ‘We’re good. We’re gonna show them.’”
Third baseman Austin Riley laughed this week when asked about Pederson and his pearls.
“Yeah, I mean, he’s Joc. He keeps it light,” Riley said. “I think you need one of those guys on your team.”
Pederson was the first of four outfielders the team traded for leading up to July’s deadline. Those additions not only filled the void of Acuña and Marcell Ozuna (who has been on administrative leave after being arrested on domestic violence charges in May), but reignited confidence in the clubhouse that the Braves could still make a postseason run.
Pederson, who was acquired in exchange for an infield prospect, was one of the first to plant those seeds.
When he came to Atlanta, he still recognized the Braves as the team that pushed the Dodgers to seven games in last year’s NLCS, and as a club expected at the start of the season to be a World Series contender.
“You could see the talent off the charts — the bullpen, the players, everything like that,” he said.
Seeing the lull that had set in during the first-half struggles, when they fell as many as eight games back in the NL East standings, caught him off-guard.
“I was like, this isn’t the team that I looked at across from the other side,” he said. “They were already good, but I think they’d been kicked down a couple times and had a couple injuries, and the mojo wasn’t there. So we did everything we can to get the mojo going.”
And how, exactly, did Pederson do that?
“I don’t know,” he laughed. “Show up, say hey. Just show some love to some people. There’s just different ways to go about it. You’ve got to kind of find out how each individual ticks, and what motivates them or what inspires them or builds confidence in them and kind of just keep pushing those buttons.”
The Houston Astros are back in the World Series for the first time since their 2017 cheating scheme became public. They insist that isn’t a motivation for this series.
His ultimate goal, he said with a sly smile: “Make you feel like you’re a bad MF, because that’s the way you’ve got to compete on the field.”
Down the stretch, that’s exactly how the Braves played, finishing the season on a 36-18 run before knocking off the Milwaukee Brewers and the Dodgers in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
After a 2-0 win on Friday over the Houston Astros, they now lead the World Series two games to one.
“With the Dodgers there’s an expectation it’s World Series or bust,” Pederson said. “I don’t think that was necessarily the expectation, especially the way the Braves season went to start. We really had to grind and work for it. So I think when you get a group of guys like that and everything starts clicking at the end, it’s really fun, and it’s really exciting.”
Dodger fans need no reminder about Pederson’s impact. After making his MLB debut with the club in 2014, the outfielder’s presence was ubiquitous with the club’s emergence as one of the best in the sport. He was a one-time All-Star, four-time 25 home run hitter, and an at-all-times energy source, especially in October.
“They don’t call it ‘Joctober’ for no reason,” teammate Max Muncy said during last year’s World Series, when Pederson hit a crucial home run in Game 5 of the Fall Classic — his final signature moment before leaving the club as a free agent last winter.
Andrew Friedman says decisions to use Max Scherzer and Julio Urías as relievers were made by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and his staff.
Now, he has the chance to become just the ninth player to win the World Series in consecutive seasons on different teams.
And probably the first to potentially lift the Commissioner’s Trophy with a string of pearls around his neck.
“He just came in and gave us a little jolt with that swag,” Young said with a chuckle. “Now you see all types of swag going on in this dugout. Joc started it.”
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